This is what I do, don't try to understand how I do it; I don't really know either

Living By Moments

I love to get there. I love that feeling after a really long drive, of having arrived. It excites me to cross things off a list – I have a deep sense of satisfaction when I accomplish something. I am an achiever. I get a lot of things done because it feels good to get things done. I have always just wanted to get there and not really stop along the way because I always felt that the joy was in the end, not in the journey.

I’m getting older and learning. I don’t think I will ever not be satisfied at the end or driven to get there, but I am learning to enjoy things along the way. My life has been filled with trauma and pain. so really is it any wonder that I would just want to get to the end. When your in pain you just want it to stop, so you just get through it.

Last week I was hurting and in between my sobs I said to myself, feel this. Don’t just get through it, but feel it. My custom has been to clench every muscle and curl up tight while riding the roller coaster and just make it through. The belief is that once you are on the other side it’s over, but that is false. What you went through comes with you, unless you feel it. It’s like these emotions wait and they sneak up on you. Some will never go away – I have pain that will always be with me, but if I feel it at the time it happens, it has less power when it comes back. The more I feel it, the more I acknowledge and process it, the less it can overwhelm me. It’s that simple but not that easy.

If I break life down into moments it is easier. There are good moments and bad ones and you need to live in both. The bad moments are easier to deal with if you think of them as moment. Moments pass. When I think of them as moments I feel as though I can put it in the palm of my hand and look it over. I can examine it from different angles and take it apart. I can see why it hurts or how it came to be. Understanding helps with healing.

Of course we want the good moments to last longer but they are also only moments. I am learning to enjoy them when I have them. I often focus on the big picture – which isn’t bad, but sometimes you miss the beautiful details that only come by taking the moments. Maybe the end isn’t what you want, but don’t miss the moments on the way. Both good and bad make us who we are. We will always have the moments we want to keep stored in our memory.

I’ll never forget jumping on the trampoline with Susan and the babies. Riding my bike as a kid with the wind rushing through my hair and I felt like I could go anywhere. Each of my children being born (including the one who died). Laughing with my best friends, which happens often, but never often enough. Being surrounded by my family and eating tacos. Teaching my kids to read. The moments when I know I have impacted the life of a young person in a positive way. Finishing my degrees. Watching the city lights at night and standing on the edge of the majestic ocean.

These are all my moments. I get to keep them. The good and the bad make up my life.

I want to live it and feel it. All of it.

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Original Sin vs Purity

I’m not going to do a theological debate here, nor state any verses for either theological side regarding the doctrine of original sin, but what I am going to do is explore the implications. So please bare with me whichever camp you are in.

The doctrine of original sin leads us to a conclusion that we are born sinful. We enter this world as damaged goods. Something, or moreover, someone, that God created is tainted and tarnished. His perfect creation, through no fault of their own at that point, have become unworthy of the presence of God. That’s what we are taught.

How does one live to their full potential believing that they are damaged? I know this life well because it’s not only how I was taught spiritually, but also what I believed because I was abused as a child. I fully embraced the concept that I was damaged goods. I should take what I can get because who wants something already used. No point holding out and no point striving for the top: that had already been taken from me.

BUT THOSE WERE LIES

There was a revelation to me in my early 20’s that I was not damaged goods. I asked God where he was when all those things happened to me, because I believed that He loved me, but that He (being holy) could not look at me when it was happening. I was shown that He was right there with me, crying and hurting just like me, and because of what was happening to his precious and perfect daughter. He never left me. He never viewed me as tarnished or tainted.

I made bad decisions based on the lies that I had believed and in that moment I knew that he did not hold them against me because he understood, but He wanted better for me. I had never felt pure in my life and at that moment, for the first time, I felt pure. That was the most amazing feeling I have ever had. Nothing can compare to the feeling of being given something you never felt worthy of. My life changed, my decisions changed, my everything changed because I knew I was pure.

What an impact on our decisions when we understand our value. No one will ever take that feeling of purity away from me, because to me it is sacred. What would our lives look like if we knew our worth? What would our world be like if our decisions were based on the fact that we are created in the image of the almighty, holy and pure God?

Pretending vs Faking

I can’t stand fakers. I really have no patience  or empathy for someone who fakes life, their intentions or who they are. One of my core values is integrity and faking goes directly against that value. It’s like scraping nails on the chalkboard of my inner being.

Today I had to spend a lot of time pretending and I thought it important to note the difference. There are things in my life right now that mean that for quite some time to come, any day can be detailed at any moment. One email, one phone call and I fall apart. That happened this morning. It started with an email that led to a phone call, and I fell apart. I was a weeping ball of mush, self questioning, life questioning and wanting to run away. Intense pain will do that. I liken it to being a scared kitten. You might scratch at things that are good and trying to help you. You might make sudden and erratic movements. It’s important to move slowly and breathe. I took the breathing part too fast though and ended up with an anxiety attack 10 minutes before I am supposed to be on a video conference for work. Fun times.

So I pretended. I got on the video call and did everything I could recall from my theatre classes in high school and I pretended to be ok. I fought tears for the first 20 minutes but I eventually gained a good hold and the minute I got to click the end button it all came out, but I made it through what I had to do. I wasn’t faking, but I was pretending and there is a difference. I dont think fakers are very honest with themselves so how can they be honest with others? Someone who pretends does it out of necessity. It is permissible to not tell everyone you encounter that your not ok, but it’s not healthy to not tell anyone. Someone has to know, hopefully more than one person, but people who you can trust and who can help.

It does not cross the value of integrity to pretend so you can still function as a mom, as a businesswoman, as a friend – as whatever you need to be. I think we err on the side of pretending too often (especially to our kids) but there are necessary times, because unfortunately life doesn’t grind to a halt to let you fall apart and have time to recover. So while your in that stage, you can pretend just to get through. You do need to take steps to recover though, or your just faking.

Don’t be a faker.

so speaking of recovery, I’m going for a run.

Companion to My Soul

I felt very alone growing up. I didn’t have a really close friend until high school. There was no one to share my thoughts, hopes, dreams or fears with. I needed someone who could see my heart.

The relationship I yearned for is the relationship I see between Jesus and John. J. Philip Newell describes John as one who listened for the heartbeat of Jesus, and Jesus showed the secrets of his heart to John. They had a mutual indwelling: John 15:4 – Abide in me as I abide in you. John was the disciple whom Jesus loved, as he self described himself. Johns gospel is very, very clear about his relationship with Jesus and the intimate love he felt.

Newel uses a term, “Companion of my soul” as someone who has kissed you into greater wholeness in your life. Its like, “looking into one anothers heart to release depths that hitherto we have not known.” He says that “when you find someone who looks into your soul, it releases streams of yearning for life and creativity and peace”. Someone who looks into your soul hurts with you, they experience joy with you, they live life with you. They can be a friend, a mother, a brother, a grandfather or a lover.

I am so blessed, beyond blessed, to have as many companions of my soul that I do. As I mentioned, it wasn’t always this way. I know what it feels like to have no one to share your soul with, to bare your soul with. I also am very aware that not everyone has that either. Some don’t even have one companion to the soul and that is the feeling of sheer and utter aloneness, emptiness, unworthiness. I think the Goo Goo Dolls encapsulate this in their song.

“Iris”

And I’d give up forever to touch you
‘Cause I know that you feel me somehow
You’re the closest to heaven that I’ll ever be
And I don’t wanna go home right now

And all I can taste is this moment
And all I can breathe is your life
When sooner or later it’s over
I just don’t wanna miss you tonight

And I don’t want the world to see me
‘Cause I don’t think that they’d understand
When everything’s made to be broken
I just want you to know who I am

And you can’t fight the tears that ain’t coming
Or the moment of truth in your lies
When everything feels like the movies
Yeah, you bleed just to know you’re alive

And I don’t want the world to see me
‘Cause I don’t think that they’d understand
When everything’s made to be broken
I just want you to know who I am

I just want you to know who I am
I just want you to know who I am
I just want you to know who I am

 

We are yearning for someone to look into our heart, to know who we are, to be a companion to our soul.

What if the pain in the world comes from a lack of companions of the soul? What if that’s what we need to heal? This is not an easy solution because to find a companion, means you have to be one. You have to risk vulnerability and opening your heart to share what is there in order to have that connectedness. Too often people have taken that risk, been rejected and shut down. There is no other easier solution than to risk again. Find the right person and take the leap of faith. It’s worth it. My life is better because of these relationships. No amount of wealth could compare to the richness of having a companion of the soul.

Through my life, I have consistently felt like the ugly duckling. The one who doesn’t fit in; I’m too loud, to firm, too blunt, too different. Anytime I found somewhere that accepted me, I have clung to that deeply. I think the first time was when I was 14 and I sat in the back row of a church and a boy in that church decided that he wanted to be friends with a girl who would show up at 14 in church alone. He’s been my best friend ever since.

My husband has family in Mexico and the first time I ever met them they made me feel like a part of the family, not because I was married in, but because they accepted me and wanted me. When my husband and I divorced, none of that changed. We actually grew closer. I had somewhere that I belonged.

Brene Brown has written about the difference of fitting in and belonging. She says, “Fitting in is about assessing the situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are,” (The gifts of imperfection).

Dear Church Leaders – knowing the difference is CRUCIAL. In school I always tried to fit in. I felt that who I was would never be good enough. Because I had been abused and grew up in a dysfunctional family, I didn’t believe that who I was had value or worth. So I constantly tried to change who I was to fit the group I was around. This resulted in me hating myself even more. I compromised who I was, to try and get acceptance and ultimately would reject myself. I often wasn’t accepted that way either anyways, so my efforts were wasted.

But isn’t this EXACTLY what the church does? We expect people to change before we make them a part of our group. You have to fit in, in order to be a Christian – at least that’s the theology people actually practice. It’s 100%  contrary to the Bible and we NEED TO STOP THIS!

Christ taught belonging. Come to me, as you are, who you are and I accept you. Christians panic because they think this is a permission to sin, but it’s not. It’s permission to be real, to be honest, open and vulnerable. That sometimes I act in ways that God never created me to, but He loves me anyways. He has already planned for my mistakes. My sin didn’t take me off course, because God already knew my sin and he has planned for that. He is still going to use me even though I mess up.

Can we as Christians not also do the same? Can we also not accept people for where they are at, show them unconditional love and know that God has a plan?

Brene also writes, “We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”

I was not functioning as I was meant to, because my needs hadn’t been met. Too often I found churches that wanted me to “clean up” before I could be accepted by them. I couldn’t clean up because my needs weren’t being met. If we meet peoples needs for love and belonging, then their behaviors will change. It was true for me. It was a long process, but as I found more and more people who loved me for who I was, and I felt I didn’t have to try and change who I was for them to accept me, I had less pain to numb. They loved me even though I was loud and blunt and different. God made me this way. I have to know when to temper those things, but it’s who I am at my core.

Stop trying to make people fit in, when God created us to belong. We all belong to Him.

What if no one believed me?

I have revisited my life in bits and pieces, exploring manageable chunks at a time. Right now I am going through a season where God is showing me the bigger picture and I am looking back at it all, at once. I have commented a few times that if I were to tell someone my whole life story, no one would believe so many of the things that have happened could have happened to one person – well for sure not to one person and still be reasonably sane (hopefully I am).

I shared this same concern with my counselor Tom; he is amazing, both as a person and as godly counsel. We started wrestling with the ideas of being thankful to God for what we went through and we landed on the story of Job. Job is significant because God was bragging about him and that actually was the sources of his troubles (BIG TROUBLES). Tom shared his perspective when he hits difficult times – that God must have been bragging about him to Satan and now Satan is trying to tear him down. I don’t think this might always be the case, but two truths are: even if God isn’t bragging about us as the cause of our trouble, it’s still a great view of how God sees us and also that so much of what happens in our lives isn’t about us, but it’s about whats going on in the heavenly realm.

The next stop on our wrestling tour took us to Luke 17, where Jesus healed ten lepers but only one returned to glorify God, and that one was made whole. Tom explained that there was a difference between healing and wholeness. See, lepers lost body parts and had all kinds of gross things happen to their body, but when they were healed they no longer had the disease of leprosy. The one who returned was made whole, so he no longer had the disease but also any body parts he lost grew back, any hard skin was made soft and and physical deformities would be gone. It was as though he had never even had leprosy.

Tom said that he believes I am at a stage where God isn’t about just healing me anymore – He wants me to be whole, to be restored to be like before anything ever happened. It was then that I realized that I now have a deep desire that if and when I tell people any part of my story, let alone the whole thing, I HOPE they don’t believe me! What if when people looked at me they saw such freedom that they could never believe I had been through those things? I would be ok with that, because I could point them to my Savior and tell them that those things did happen to me, but He has made me whole.

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The voice of the tree

There has been a sequence of events this year that has opened so many wounds – so many old wounds.

It has taken me back to childhood. A lot of bad things happened when I was a child, some around me and some to me. I have dealt with all these things in different levels and sometimes when you are brought back it’s for a short time and you move forward, but this year it’s not that way. It’s been a long time that I need to lean into and not fight against. It’s painful to go back so no one ever really wants to, but there can be healing when you do – sometimes a deeper healing than there was before.

This time I have had to revisit many places and not just once singular event – I am sure that’s why it’s been harder but it also had a purpose. I looked back with an overall view of my childhood and it’s very painful. It’s given me a deeper realization for all the things that happened in a cumulative way.

I looked back and I saw myself and just myself. I love my parents deeply but they were battling their own issues. I have countless brothers and sisters but I hardly lived with any of them and when I did it was not the best. I look back and see this girl who was on her own, had to fight for herself and find my way by myself. It has been painful to see that that was the reality of my life. Children are not meant to be alone.

And as I grieve this reality, God meets me there. I know He was with me the whole time – it’s not the same as growing up in a loving family who cares for each other, but God is there and He is enough. He was then and He is now.

Stepping back and looking at the big picture I see something else as well. The best illustration I can give is that I am like a tree. Like a Christmas tree. Please bear with me, because Christmas is not my favourite holiday nor do I like decorating. But I am like a tree and there have been significant people who came and added something beautiful to my life. Each is different and though I didn’t have one or two central people who were always there, I had many who each added something. Some of my branches are bent or even broken off. Because of the deformities of my tree and the fact that there is no consistent pattern or decorative theme to my tree – since all the people who added to it were unique and added unique contributions, it is very much a Charlie Brown tree.

No one ever wanted a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. It was scoffed at and ridiculed. Everyone wanted the asthetically pleasing tree with its perfect balance of lights and matching ornaments. That made people feel good to look at.

Things have changed and my generation and younger are challenging the status quo of what is acceptable. We’re tired of fake. We’re tired of putting on a show and pretending that in real life everything is perfectly put together. If you need an example please read about the fiasco in Montreal and their “terrible” Christmas tree which initially drew public scorn but was quickly turned around and that tree now has its own twitter account. People are now wanting imperfect trees publicly displayed. Being real is ok. Being vulnerable is strength not weakness.

My life purpose is to bring glory to God. The most significant way that I do that is to be a voice for those who are voiceless and to help others find there voice. I realize this passion comes because I had to do that for myself and those times that I had someone beside me deeply impacted me. Voices together are beautiful. If being alone created in me this bold voice that I proudly have – then I will take it! Not everything good comes out of blessing. God can make amazing things come from the deepest, darkest places. Because he is awesome like that.